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Author Archive: "Jessica Page Morrell"

It’s Never Been a Better Time to Be a Writer

It's never been a better time to be a writer. Hold on buckaroos — I can almost hear your protests and long-held-in sobs. Now it's true that a handful of ginormous conglomerates have swallowed up many American publishing companies. In fact, five publishing conglomerates control about 80% of book sales. This means traditional channels are shrinking, few mom and pop shops exist any more, and gentlemen editors are as outdated as fins on cars. And lots of shakedowns and even more downsizing have happened in the face of our current recession. Thus, it's not easy to break into publishing. In fact, industry insiders wonder if edgy, experimental writers like Annie Proulx or Jack Kerouac would have problems breaking into print in today's corporate culture. But wouldn't the world be a dimmer, duller place without The Shipping News, Brokeback Mountain, and On the Road?

Perhaps instead of worrying about how the old publishing model is disappearing, accept that the book business is evolving and there are many more ways to deliver stories and content to readers: e-books, digital books, web books, podcasts, print on demand,

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When Life Goes Crash

I woke before dawn yesterday to the news of Senator Kennedy's death. I slouched in bed for a while, watching MSNBC as every pundit from Doris Kearns Goodwin to Pat Buchanan weighed in on his life and legacy. The wordsmith in me was fascinated as modifiers and titles were bandied about: lion, scion, patriarch, titan. Then Goodwin uttered Hemingway's lovely line, "The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places." Meanwhile, photos of his smile and family ties were flashed across the screen.

With images of the Kennedy family echoing in my thoughts, I'm going to take the plunge and describe how I wrote much of my latest book while recovering from a head injury. I'm writing this post because in all the years of working with writers I've heard every belly-aching excuse and lameness for why someone doesn't write, or isn't more prolific, or cannot make the time, or is afraid to write the book he or she was born to write.

I was rear-ended by a young woman searching for her cell phone while she was driving at a fair ...


Advice I Wish I Knew about 20 Years Ago

Fast forward through the years until I moved to Portland, Oregon, in 1991. (We'll just skip over my hippie years of living on an Indian reservation and attending lots of concerts, my divorces, raising my daughter, and my career in the...


Secret Riches

I already wrote about the scary parts of childhood, but becoming a writer taught me that I wasn't born under a dark star — something I'm immensely grateful for. Because despite the creepy influences around me, my hometown is wrapped in rivers amid a land laced in lakes and forests. Water and the sound of it like a lullaby. Summer skies as blue as cornflowers and night skies like a magic show. Somehow the rivers and water, the power of place have slipped into my veins, echo in all I write.

The second influence about growing up to become a writer in a small town was that my family was poor. Not dirt-eating poor, Angela's Ashes poor, but the poor where you can always feel the lack and the nagging worry and the cold in the air. As in borrowing money from your mother-in-law poor so you can feed your six kids, or trekking down to grandma's for dinner of pancakes because we were low on food; hole in your shoes, empty closet, your parents buy your ...


One Writer’s Beginnings

I really enjoyed Jessica Anthony's posts about where story ideas come from and the importance of play. I work with a lot of fiction writers and it's fun to speculate on all those personalities living within the writer. I've never told them, but they twitch a lot. Even the most stable among them who practice yoga and drink hemp milk, or have been married for thirty years and mulch their roses. I write nonfiction, so my words come from my work, editing and teaching writers, sky watching and sunsets, and the always-present undertow of memory.

In the past few years I've taught a workshop called "Writing a Book That Makes a Difference," the title a rip-off of the terrific book by Philip Gerard. In this workshop I purloin some of Gerard's idea, but mostly I offer my own about how writers need to write from their passions, fears, concerns; the things that wake them at 3 a.m. Most writers need to write about things that haunt or hurt — if your writing is a cakewalk of ...


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